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HomeThe DigAugust 2004
Where are We Digging Now?

Fort Interior West Palisade Area
Dig Site with Map
The excavation inside the west log wall (palisade) continues to reveal more sections of the cobblestone foundation of a long building, estimated to be over 130 feet long with three double-sided H-shaped fireplaces that divide it into at least six rooms, similar perhaps to a London row house or maybe the Governor's house.

Archaeologists now have portions of the foundation for both long sides of the building and one end, which was recently discovered near the river side of the building. A walking path for visitors has been rerouted so that they can continue looking for the other end of the building under the existing path. They are extending the dig in that direction and hope to define the outline of the building before the end of this dig season.

St. James Scallop Shell Silver Mold for Wax Seals
Another View of St. James Scallop Shell Silver Mold
Based on the findings so far, the building was 18 feet wide, a width that fits traditional Fort Period building dimensions, and places the building 10 feet away from and parallel to the west wall, the same as other earlier buildings inside the fort.

The architecture in this area also appears to be very different from the earth fast mud and stud buildings found at the other end of the fort. Artifacts from the building site include a relatively high concentration of status items compared to other areas of the fort site such as broken Chinese porcelain, delftware wall tiles from the Netherlands, ceramics and glassware in the facon de Venise. This may indicate that people of relatively high status lived here, and it may also indicate a social class separation in the overall design of the fort.

Personal objects such as a small silver wax seal with a scallop shell design, a crucifix made of jet, the cap of the handle of a small silver knife engraved with the initials FP and the date 1622, and other items such as buttons, aglets, oyster shells and food remains have been found in the plow zone in this area.

Other Images From the Fort Interior West Palisade Area:
Jet Crucifix Silver Knife Cap with 1622 Date and 'FP' Initials

Wine Cellar
Archaeologist Jamie May Unearths Late-17th Century Wine Bottles
Wine Bottle Bearing the Seal of Virginia Governor Francis Nicholson
A brick-lined wine cellar with ten intact wine bottles, one of the oldest wine cellars ever discovered in America, and portions of the foundations of a building constructed near the latter part of the 17th century have also been uncovered this summer inside the west wall area of the fort site. (See Featured Finds for more information about the wine cellar.)

The newer building cuts diagonally across the earlier fort-period building at right angles and was built after the fort was no longer in use. The dimensions of this building are not yet known, but archaeologists have found diamond-shaped window glass and a small section of window lead, which bears the date 1693, associated with the building that may indicate that this was the home of a wealthy family who lived at Jamestown near the end of the 17th century.

William Kelso, APVA director of archaeology said, "It's like a bookend. We've been uncovering the very beginning of Jamestown, and in the process we have also found the end." After the capital moved to Williamsburg in 1699, Jamestown was gradually abandoned, fell into ruin and eventually became an agricultural area.

Other Images From the Wine Cellar:
Wine Cellar After Bottles Have Been Excavated Pieces of English Delftware Chamber Pot Archaeologists in Western Palisade Area with Wine Cellar at Center
Excavated Wine Bottle with Governor Francis Nicholson's Seal Excavated Wine Bottles Window Lead Bearing 1693 Date

West Corner Cannon Mount (Bulwark) Trench
Palisade Wall Post Molds and Possible Saw Pit in Western Bulwark Area
Post Molds from Decayed Palisade Wall Logs
As they continue to dig the west corner cannon mount (bulwark) trench, archaeologists may have discovered underneath it part of a saw pit used by the first settlers beside the river. A thick layer of dark soil, about three inches, possibly created by the decay of layers of saw dust over the years, may mark the bottom of the pit. The trench cuts through the saw pit, so the pit was there before the trench was built. According to Kelso, this makes sense because one of the first things the settlers did was saw clapboard to ship back to England, where lumber was scarce.

"Now falleth every man to work: The council contrive the fort, the rest cut down trees to make a place to pitch their tents, some provide clapboard to relade the ships, some make gardens, some nets, etc."  --John Smith

They're also carefully excavating the post molds left by the decayed palisade. This makes it possible to determine the shape of the logs that were used to create the fort's corner wall. Visitors can also watch as buckets of dirt scraped away from the trench fill are rinsed with water through a fine mesh screen to unveil even the smallest artifacts.

Lowland Scots Basket Hilt in the Conservation Process
Throughout the summer, archaeologists at this site have been discovering small bits and pieces of objects lost or discarded by the early settlers, probably sometime between 1607 and 1612, including bits of apothecary jars, Indian pottery, other ceramics, beads, pieces of arms and armor, pipe stems, copper scrap, sturgeon scales (scutes) and bones from food remains. Larger items such as bullet molds, parts from matchlock guns and pieces of armor, and a Lowland Scots basket hilt and pommel have also been found.

Uncovering the Center of the Fort

"In the middest is a marketplace, a storehouse, and a corps du guard, as likewise a pretty chapel..."  --William Strachey

Archaeologists are continuing to pursue a path of excavation toward the center of the fort site, hoping to find remains of the first church and other public buildings. An assortment of postholes of varying sizes have been uncovered and appear to be related to structures of some type, however, more ground will need to be uncovered before they can connect the dots and make sense out of what's been found so far.

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